POST SACRAMENT EVANGELIZATION Further nourishing disciples of Jesus Christ
WHAT’S OUR CHALLENGE? • We seem to be good at preparing our people for the sacraments, but what happens the days after the sacrament? • Why do so many of our children make their first holy communion—and seldom their second, third, etc.? • How is it that many of our youth are confirmed, but we don’t see most of them again? • Why do we celebrate so many marriages, but don’t keep in touch with those couples and nourish them? • Why do so many of our rcia new Catholics drift away from the church so quickly?
How did we get to this disconnect? • Somewhere along the way, we gradually moved away from the church of the acts of the apostles where families and the community nourished and shared the faith • After the second world war, the confraternity of Christian doctrine (ccd) was established • In an amazing reversal, we went from families handing on the faith to their children, to parents dropping their children off at the parish—where others instructed them • Then, the parents picked them up and took them home—without any faith interaction between parents and children • Thus, a great faith sharing chasm has been created between parents and their children
Some trends as we move forward • Pope francis is leading the way: “the joy of the gospel”!!! • Whole family catechesis by bill huebsch • The rebuilt parish by fr. Michael white and pastoral associate Thomas Corcoran; see www.rebuiltparish.com • Tools for rebuilding: 75 practical ways to rebuild a parish • Huebsch, white, and Corcoran are here at congress 2014 • Sunday liturgies which call, inspire, nourish and send us forth as disciples and apostles
My observations • The entire parish community must be sharing faith—pope francis • Maximum parish formational and educational effort is spent on preparing our people for receiving the sacraments • But most of the time, once the sacrament has been received, we offer nothing further for the recipients of the sacraments • Rather, we start over preparing a new group of recipients for the same sacraments • But, why don’t we pursue post-sacrament evangelization? • Not a problem of neglect; I just don’t think we have understood fully the potential of post-sacrament evangelization
Pope Francis showing us the way • Pope Francis is pointing us and leading us to Jesus, to a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus—the core element of preparing for the sacraments • But pope Francis is also showing us that our friendship & discipleship with Jesus is an on-going work that requires daily renewal in our lives • Francis is emphasizing love, mercy, understanding, and personal outreach to others as the witness of Jesus in the gospels illustrates so deeply • Each of the sacraments empowers us to live out this dynamic life in Jesus
POPE FRANCIS [CONTINUED] • “The Joy of the gospel” is a great encouragement to all of us!! • “an evangelizing community knows that the lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf, 1 jn. 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.”  • “let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet….an evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.  • “evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” 
Pope francis[continued] • “An evangelizing community is also supportive, stand by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance.” 
Let’s apply a new approach! • Let’s form and train our catechetical teams into two groups: one for formation & preparation, and one for post-sacrament evangelization • These new teams must work fully in harmony with each other, not apart • The new approach does not accept excuses: “don’t bother, they won’t come back;” “our people aren’t interested in the days after the sacraments;” “the kids are too busy to continue to be involved” • We must create intentional disciples of Jesus, and intentional faith families & communities • Let’s be really creative with new strategies!
Six sacramental encounters that offer great promise • Baptism • First Eucharist • Confirmation • Marriage • Anointing & Catholic funerals • Rcia
Baptism & the days/years that follow • Our pre-baptism efforts could include sessions on asking parents & godparents to share what they value about their catholic faith, and what do they want to pass on to their children; maybe have them write these down for later reflection • Why not use teams of new parents to visit the homes of those preparing for a baptism? Fill out the paperwork with them, answer their questions, offer parenting suggestions for raising catholic families, sharing prayer with them in their homes • Get email addresses for parents & godparents; add these to regular parish announcements • Have the parish send a congratulatory letter right after baptism, offering information on Sunday Eucharist and other faith formation
Baptism [continued] • Give really nice baptism candles at the liturgy; be sure to note the date of the baptism on the box • Encourage parents to celebrate the “spiritual birthdays” of their children each year, lighting the candle year after year [forget the gifts!!] • Invite the parents of the newly baptized to next Sunday’s mass where they will be presented to the whole community • Where feasible, maybe have infant baptisms during a Sunday mass now and then
Baptism [continued] • Who is going to do all of these tasks: emails, letters, etc.? • A great Christian service task for those preparing for confirmation, and for those after confirmation—they are so quick at social media! • Have a parishioner take parish photos, as well as family members • Feature the newly baptized on the parish website & Facebook page; encourage parents to visit those sites & see their children featured • Other ideas????
First Eucharist • Focus needs to shift from the actual first communion to the preparation & post sacrament • Partner families with other families preparing for first Eucharist; maybe by neighborhood or friends—have them gather in homes now and then • Small retreats for parents & candidates • Some parishes hand out “go bags” to these families: contain handouts [‘update’ is one], a sign or symbol of faith to color and hang up in the home, other items • Ask parents to articulate why they want their children to receive first Eucharist
Eucharist [continued] • Ask parents to discuss how they plan on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc., communion with their children • Create a certificate pledging this family to become a Eucharistic family, going to mass & communion regularly—have them post it in the home • Discover early on any obstacles preventing the parents from receiving communion; use all resources to try to fix the problems before first Eucharist • A good session for parents: understanding this sacrament from the scriptural & traditional point of view
Eucharist [continued] • A possible retreat, or an agape, with faith sign & symbol activities for children & parents; good items to put on the walls of the children’s rooms • Activities to connect parents with their parish, helpful to their continuing involvement • After first Eucharist, post photos on parish website, Facebook • Send a congratulatory letter to the family with information on parish events & activities • Send an email and regular email news & information about the parish
Eucharist [continued] • Godparents for first Eucharist another way to get encouragement for the child & family to continue Sunday mass together • Having parents meet & know other parents, having them feel at home and welcome in the parish—all keys to further Eucharistic involvement • Send anniversary letters to first communicants • Involve confirmation candidates & youth group members in all of these social media contacts • Other ideas????
confirmation • Essential to introduce faith sharing into the process • 6th, 7th, 8th grade faith activities must be exciting & inviting for this age group • Critical that godparents be chosen carefully—they are to be stewards & shepherds of the candidates; not a “reward” for aunt Susie or tio juan • Candidates must have an orientation & criteria before selecting godparents • Candidate gatherings need age-appropriate faith sharing activities • Candidates need to journey through a gospel together, such as Luke
Confirmation [continued] • Christian service projects need to be linked to Jesus & gospels, with candidates challenged to see the connection between Jesus & reaching out to others • Select Christian service projects that can be continued after confirmation • Invite previously confirmed youth to serve as sponsors for new candidates • Essential to have peer mentors & guides for the candidates • Promote post-confirmation opportunities to become peer mentors, teachers, music ministers, youth club leaders
Confirmation [continued] • Have candidates “apply” for post-confirmation leadership roles—create a sense of importance & leadership • Develop exciting & challenging youth teen groups with confirmandi as leaders • Parishes need sound young adult programs to continue involving our young people • Schedule a one-month confirmation anniversary mass & pizza event • Have confirmation team send congratulatory texts & emails to confirmandi
Confirmation [continued] • Encourage confirmandi to create an exciting facebook page of their own confirmation: why they entered the program, highlights of the program, retreat sharings, inviting their friends to sign up if not confirmed; podcast of their own journey • Parish should take photos of the youth actually being anointed, not photos after the confirmation mass • Parish website should feature some photos of the recent confirmation, names of all who were confirmed • Have parents write personal notes to their children on confirmation retreats
Confirmation [continued] • Other ideas????
Matrimony • Our newly married couples are the very ones who will be having children and be seeking the sacraments for them in the future • They are an essential group for us to maintain contact after their wedding • We have the “marriage inventory” and “engaged encounter” sessions for our couples • Even better: have young married couples meet with these couples to help plan their marriage liturgy, answer questions, and encourage them to attend mass together • Actual role model young married couples are so valuable in this process
Matrimony [continued] • While involving the priest & marriage coordinator are important, it’s more powerful and lasting to involve other young married couples in the process early • Establish “couples for Christ” in your parish: as couples are married in the parish, begin a post-Matrimony program with recently married couples • Monthly meetings with the couples in charge of the sessions can work miracles for them: • Meet at 4:00 pm Sundays • Rotate couples in charge each month
Matrimony [continued] • Couples share how jesus Christ is working in their lives & marriage • Couples discuss their own relationships & the graces of the sacrament • Challenges discussed, prayer & support given & received • Couples share pot luck supper together • These couples serve as couple mentors to those who are engaged • Eventually, these couples will have young children ready for early catechesis • Once the group becomes too large, time to create another group • Consider offering an annual summer retreat weekend for them in the parish
Anointing of the sick/bereavement • Parish bereavement team members could begin during those final days of hospice care • Team members can pray with the family before death • After death, team members can help the family plan meaningful funeral liturgies • Vigil service should be encouraged for the families the night before the funeral • Vigil Liturgy is the appropriate time for eulogies, not the funeral mass • Have family involved in choosing the scriptures, music, general intercessions • Recommend the family have a simple reception after the funeral/committal
Anointing/bereavement [continued] • End of year events for all deceased in previous year: • Make a large sign for all souls day with names of all deceased in previous 12 months • Print up small cards with all of these names • Mail copies to all families with deceased members in previous year • Feature a book of life with all buried from the parish in previous year • Consider a new year’s eve mass at 7:00 pm for all deceased; invite families to attend, light a candle for each deceased person • Other ideas????
rcia • Most parishes have very good rcia programs & teams • Great efforts taken to journey with catechumens during the process • However, post-Easter vigil often produces a serious letdown for new Catholics • Few parishes offer a serious mystagogia for new Catholics • Parishes need two teams: catechumen team, post-baptism team • Involvement in the life of the catholic community & parish needs to begin prior to baptism
Rcia [continued] • Gather newly baptized as a group once a month • Involve members in bible study, Christian service, various ministries • Involve the sponsors in helping the newly baptized to become immersed in the life of the church & parish • Celebrate new catholics on Pentecost • Bring new catholics to one or two rcia sessions the following fall • Let new catholics serve as role models for new catechumens
Rcia [continued] • Other ideas????